Peach History and Factoids

Peach History and Factoids

The peach tree is a deciduous tree that is native to Northwest China since 2000 BC, specifically the region between the north slopes of the Kunlun Shan Mountains and the Tarim Basin. This is where cultivation and domestication began, bearing the luscious, delectable fruit known as the fruit of immortality and a symbol of longevity and fertility. The emperor even had a royal scepter made of peach wood! Peach kernels were used as home remedies in traditional Chinese medicine to remove  blood stasis, fight inflammation and reduce allergies. The Chinese considered the peach tree, rather than Apple, as the Tree of Life. The trees were carried along the ancient Persian silk route and brought to Europe for cultivation. Some suspect  Alexander the Great introduced the peach to the Greco-Roman world.
 
Around the 4 th century BC, Greek philosopher Theophrastus thought it came from Persia (modern day Iran) and named it Persica. Confucius, Dioscorides and Pliny mentioned the peach around 1st century BC. Pliny also mentioned that peach trees were taken from Egypt to the island of Rhodes, but were not successful. The trees where then brought to Italy. The Romans called them malum persicum or ‘Persian apples’ because they were thought to be introduced by Persia. This misunderstanding was common. However, the peach was originally from China. Peach trees were painted in wall murals of towns destroyed by the Vesuvius eruption of 79 AD. However the oldest artistic representation of the peach tree date back to 1st century AD and documnetation is preserved in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.
 
Peaches reached England around the middle of the 16 th century. Columbus brought peach trees to the new America on his second and third voyages. Simultaneously English colonists brought trees to grow in their new home in America. Around 1629, peach stones were ordered by the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony of New England. The peach was suitable and spread abundantly in North America. In early 17th century, George Minifie a horticulturist brought some of the first peaches to North America to plant them at this Estate of Buckland in Virginia. Thomas Jefferson had peach trees at Monticello, but commercial production did not begin until the 19th century in Maryland, Delaware, Georgia, and Virginia.
 
Peaches continued to spread throughout the world, and the Spanish brought them to Latin and South America during the 16th century. They spread so rapidly through the wild that some thought it was a native fruit. Darwin even noted them in South America, when he found them on islands in the mouth of the Parana. In the 19th century, the plant traveled to Australia, and then early in the 20th century it finally arrived in southern Africa. Today this fruit is one of the most widely cultivated trees in the world. It is second in importance to the Apple.
 
The Chinese handle a large number of varieties and were initially spread by seed. The stone produce trees easily, but do not always come true. This variability may have been the reason for the slow spread to Europe. Another reason could be because peaches were initially tried in hot countries at too low altitudes, which was not conducive to growing. Since the trees did not get winter dormancy leading to the poor production of fruit. There are many varieties of peach, each with a unique color, size, and shape of flower, and characteristics of the fruit like shape, color, flesh texture and adherence to the stone.
 
The peach capital of Colorado is in Palisade in the Book Cliffs. This sheer 1,000-foot cliff is too steep for vegetation but absorbs heat from the sun and beams it towards the orchards. This espalier technique protects trees from frost, quickens the ripening and produces excellent tasting fruit.
 

The peach ( Prunus persica vulgaris) is from the Rosaceae or rose family. Other fruits in this family include the plum, cherry, and almond.

A Dozen Fun Factoids about Peaches

  • There are thousands of varieties of peaches. The nectarine is also in the family but has a smooth skin. A peacherine is a cross between a peach and nectarine and is common in New Zealand and Australia. The flat peach or pan-tao is similar in flavor and color to the peach but is flattened in appearance.
  • World wide, significant peach producing regions include China (with 11.9 million tons produced in 2013), the Mediterranean (i.e. Italy, Spain, and Greece) and the United States.
  • Peaches are produced in 36 of the 50 states, which is uncommon for most fruits that are usually produced in a specific state or region. California, South Carolina, and Georgia are top producers in the US. California leads the states in production, producing 99% of cling form peaches.
  • The peach tree is a deciduous tree that is native to Northwest China since 2000 BC, specifically the region between the north slopes of the Kunlun Shan Mountains and the Tarim Basin. This is where cultivation and domestication first began, bearing the luscious, delectable fruit known as the fruit of immortality and a symbol of longevity and fertility.
  • Peach kernels were used as home remedies in traditional Chinese medicine to remove blood stasis, fight inflammation and reduce allergies. The Chinese considered the peach tree, rather than Apple, as the Tree of Life.
  • Peaches reached England around the middle of the 16 th century. Columbus brought peach trees to the new America on his second and third voyages.
  • Peaches are low in calories, cholesterol and saturated fat and contain a wide array of minerals and vitamins. Most prominent is vitamin C; a serving contains 17% of the daily recommended value. Other nutrients are lower in quantity but there are a wide variety present like vitamins A, E and K, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, manganese, iodine, copper, sulfur and iron.
  • Often canned and frozen peaches are higher in calories that fresh because of additional heavy syrup and sugar. Dried peaches are very nutrient dense since it takes 6 to 7 pounds of fresh peaches to produce 1 pound dried. A serving size of 10 dried peaches has about 300 calories, 1,295 mg potassium, and 5 mg iron.
  • Vitamin C is important in fighting infection, and acting as an antioxidant that removes damaging free radicals. It also is required for synthesis of connective tissue. Vitamin A is also present in peaches and provides beta-carotene that is converted to retinol. This is important in eye health and also protects against mouth and lung cancers.
  • There are around 110 chemical compounds that make up the aroma of peaches. These include alcohols, aldehydes, esters, ketones, polyphenols and terpenoids.
  • Peaches should be consumed in moderation because of their high amount of fructose, which may be harmful in excess amounts. Peach allergy or intolerance is seen in those hypersensitive to the proteins present in peaches. Symptoms may be localized to the mouth or throat or more severe and systemic including anaphylaxis.